Refugee crisis leaves former Kos holiday hotel a hellish home for hundreds of desperate migrants

Once the Captain Elias was a four-star hotel a favourite destination for sun-seeking Britons in the Greek islands. Now it is a hellhole. The stench is unbearable, there are swarms of flies, stinking piles of rubbish lie in the blazing heat and discarded shoes are everywhere. But for hundreds of desperate refugees1 from Syria, Nigeria, Eritrea and Pakistan this place passes as home until they manage to move on.

The hotel on Kos in the Aegean Sea holds just a small part of the flood of people heading into Europe to escape war and famine or simply find a better life. The reception, restaurant and bar are full of migrants sleeping on stained mattresses. Some of them are clearly sick. Inside the front entrance a man lies fast asleep on the front desk, where just a couple of years ago excited British families would have been checking in.

It is the best many new arrivals can hope for. They even have a rota system to decide who gets a room. And still they come…

Shocking: Conditions are filthy

Half a million migrants have already arrived in Europe this year, exposing deep divisions within the EU.2

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned that a solution to the crisis is far off and the way it is handled will shape Europe s future. Hungary announced a record 10,046 arrivals this week.

And the European Commission has warned that overcrowding and cultural clashes could lead to right-wing extremism. And yet, bizarrely, life goes on pretty much as before in some places on Kos. Just 50 yards down the road from the Captain Elias, holidaymakers at the five star Kalypso Hotel are sipping expensive cocktails on sun loungers by the pool.

No swimming: The pool is dry and refugees camp around it

At the Captain Elias the diving board is still in place but the pool is drained of water. It s only use now is for open fires on which people cook their food and for washing lines. As soon as the Sunday People3 team arrived at the abandoned hotel on the outskirts of Kos town we were besieged by pitiful refugees. They begged for help.

They begged for clothes. They begged for medical assistance. But there is a system of sorts in place here. Asked how it worked, one man replies: Common sense and dignity

Everyone is in the same position and there is great level of respect and goodwill. If one person manages to get on a boat to Athens, then others simply move into their room.

In a nearby tent we find Syrian refugee Mustafa Azzizi, 63, and his seven-year-old grandson, also called Mustafa.

Not on holiday: Hotel Captain Elias was once a four-star resort for British tourists

The boy is playing with teddy bears and is colouring in a book given to him by locals.

There are seven of my family with me here, says Mustafa, who worked as a mechanic on heavy goods vehicles in the Syrian city of Aleppo.

We had to leave, he adds. It just became so bad. His niece Nisreen, 23, tells us: I saw a man being executed. They beheaded him, it was awful.

I don t know what he was supposed to have done. Mustafa paid people smugglers 1,200 US dollars for each of his family to get them to safety.

They hope to reach Germany and rebuild their lives. He says: I just want a decent future for my family. Everyone deserves that.

Basic: Facilities are sparse

The migrants are of several nationalities. In the lobby Ali Hussain, 19, from Damascus, Syria, says he has been here seven days. He paid 800 US dollars for the perilous crossing to Greece.

Thomas Bayo, 30, from northern Nigeria, has been here 11 days. His trip cost 750 dollars. Omar Alahad, 22, from Baghdad, Iraq has been here for 31 days. He paid 1,250 dollars. Mohammed Daniyal, 21, from Lahore, Pakistan paid 800 dollars and arrived 20 days ago.

No one manages the hotel any more but kind-hearted Greek locals from a charity offer what help they can. A notice reads: Please try to keep the place clean. Make sure you throw your garbage in the bags.

Bedtime: Refugeees sleep where they can

The water is drinkable. You can drink from the tap. Please take one portion of food per person, so everyone can eat.

The notice adds: We are a solidarity group. All the things we give you come from donations. We are trying to comfort you and cover some of your basic needs. Thomas Bayo says: The situation has eased a littlein the past few days. Since that little boy Aylan drowned while crossing the sea and it made front pages across the world, the numbers coming in have slowed.

It s not as busy or chaotic as it was a couple of weeks ago. But people still sleep four or five to a room on mattresses on the floor. Some have set up camp on the roof. Others sleep in donated tents around the pool. One Briton appalled by the conditions he found here has launched an ambitious bid to buy the Captain Elias.

Journey: The refugees have stories to tell

The hotel was abandoned after its owners hit financial difficulties. But Jason Unsworth hopes to raise enough money by crowd funding to renovate it and provide clean and hygienic rooms . Meanwhile there is increasing tension between ethnic groups on Kos.

Pakistanis and Afghanis accuse Syrians of sabotaging their chances of getting off the island. Iraqis say the authorities favour Syrians. Every night people mass outside the police station on the promenade to chant their displeasure.

But as a ferry glides into the nearby harbour they break into warm applause. Hundreds of Syrians start to board finally they are heading to Athens and mainland Europe. Those left on Kos pray that tomorrow will be their turn.

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